Adrien Rabiot Is Not Just PSG's Future, He Can Be Their Present

Andrew Gibney@@gibney_aFeatured ColumnistSeptember 7, 2016

CARSON, CA - JULY 30:  Adrien Rabiot #25 of Paris Saint-Germain in action against Leicester City during the 2016 International Champions Cup at StubHub Center on July 30, 2016 in Carson, California.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

When Didier Deschamps announced his 23-man squad for the UEFA European Championship this summer, one surprise wasn't in the actual squad, but in his list of alternatives, which included Paris Saint-Germain's Adrien Rabiot. 

Just like before the 2014 FIFA World Cup, there were dropouts from the original list. But this time, it was defenders rather than midfielders, and Rabiot had to be content with watching from home.

However, through the performances of Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi and N'Golo Kante, he would have struggled for minutes regardless of his inclusion. But he used his time off this summer to ensure he'd have a strong start to the season.

Rabiot has made an excellent start to the season.
Rabiot has made an excellent start to the season.Xavier Laine/Getty Images

The 21-year-old has started all three of PSG's league games under new boss Unai Emery and has come out with nothing but praise in the early stages of the campaign.

Even after PSG lost 3-1 to Monaco at the Stade Louis II, Rabiot could hold his head high.

After Emery was appointed, one of the first signings the club made was to bring in Grzegorz Krychowiak from his old club Sevilla. Adding another name to PSG's talented midfield.

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For so long under Laurent Blanc, the trio of Marco Verratti, Thiago Motta and Matuidi were the flag-bearers, and the young Rabio had found it hard to break into the starting XI.

After Verratti missed most of the last campaign, Rabiot took his chance and was one of the Parisians' most improved players over the past 12 months.

Even with that, when trying to pick PSG's strongest XI, it was hard to find a place for Rabiot, perhaps giving the youngster reason to become frustrated and create a problem for the club and Emery.

With Verratti making his way back to full fitness, Matuidi on the bench and Krychowiak still to figure on the pitch, Rabiot has played a huge part in the opening weeks.

"I have also spoken with the coach, and he told me that he is really counting on me," Rabiot told French television programme Telefoot at the weekend (h/t ESPN FC). "I want to prove this season that I can be an important player for the team. My ambition is to establish myself as a starter at PSG, and I think that with that, international recognition with France will also come."

Rabiot went on to admit that he has been told that, for the time being, a move away from the French capital is "out of the question," but if his playing time is reduced, the club may struggle to stop the classy midfielder from asking.

"I told myself that I will return one day. I have always had the desire to play in England, it is in me. The Premier League...that is football!"

Rabiot spent time at Manchester City's academy as a teenager, and it seems that although he didn't enjoy the best of times, it hasn't deterred him from looking back across the English Channel.

"Of course I am very happy at PSG, and I would like to stay for a long time, to grow with the club and to become captain of the team one day, but we cannot predict how things can turn out."

Rabiot is definitely the type of player PSG need at the club. He is very talented for someone so young, he has been around the first team since he was 17 years old and is as close as they will get to a homegrown captain since they sold Mamadou Sakho to Liverpool.

He is a modern midfielder in the purest sense. He can play box-to-box, he's now showing that he has the upper-body strength to cope defensively and hold his own, plus he has the skill to take the ball out of the midfield and start PSG's attacking phase.

He has everything you could want in a midfielder his age, and he's gaining experience every week. And based on his recent behaviour and the quotes from Telefoot, he looks to have grown up a lot over the past 12 months.

However, that is not going to solve Emery's problems on where to play him. The Spanish coach likely envisioned Krychowiak and Verratti paired up in his initial thoughts. If not, he wouldn't have signed the Poland international in the first place.

Matuidi looks to have been close to leaving, per Telefoot (h/t Sky Sports), and you have to believe that suitors will be back for him in January.

Motta isn't really a problem. He's a veteran, he will always play a role when you need him and his experience is invaluable.

When both he and Matuidi look to move on, it is Rabiot who needs to be there to push this team forward.

Against Monaco, without a No. 10 like Javier Pastore or Hatem Ben Arfa, the display was flat, something similar to what we saw under Blanc at times. That then brings a lack of creativity, reducing the service for Edinson Cavani or Angel Di Maria.

There is no problem in wanting to play a little more conservatively against better sides, especially away from home. It is something that can work in your favour when done well in the Champions League.

Even in defeat, Rabiot stood out against Monaco.
Even in defeat, Rabiot stood out against Monaco.Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

At the Parc des Princes, on the big pitch, you can play four forwards, stretch teams and dominate. But there has to be an alternative on the road.

There is an option of playing Rabiot, not quite as a No. 10, but just ahead of the two sitting midfielders. Give him the licence to get forward and support the attack. Make him the link man in the midfield, and let him use his quality left foot to pick apart defences.

Finding a way to play Rabiot with Verratti and Krychowiak will give the youngster more freedom and aid his development, opening the door to a possible international call-up.

Discussing his prospects of winning a place in the France national team, he told Telefoot (h/t ESPN FC):

The coach makes his choices and we have no say in that. However, if you ask me if I am ready I say that yes, I think I am.

I have not done badly in Ligue 1 since the start of the season and I already have a good level of Champions League experience. My time will come, I am not worried. It is up to the coach to decide when.

Rabiot is perhaps not quite as ready as he would like to believe, but he’s not too far away. Given more time on the pitch and more responsibility in the PSG starting XI, the 21-year-old could develop into one of the most sought-after midfielders in Europe.

He has what it takes. All the potential is there. He may have England in his sights, but for now, Emery and PSG need to do everything they can to make sure his future is guaranteed in the French capital.